Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘health visitors’ Category

A thoroughly infuriating, although predictable, article from the BBC today tells us that something called “tough love” is good for children. That “it is confidence, warmth and consistent discipline that matter most” when raising kids, and that “a balance of warmth and discipline improved social skills more than a laissez-faire, authoritarian or disengaged upbringing.”

Isn’t that lovely? All parenting styles on this whole planet neatly summed up for your reading pleasure, or…not. There are, as we know, as many ways to raise children as children themselves, but this list containing only “laissez-faire, authoritarian or disengaged” parenting betrays an all-too common prejudice against parents who fit into none of these categories. As usual we are not recognised, we do not exist. We manage to parent without being authoritarian or disengaged and without any guidance from the state, and that just won’t do.

I don’t doubt for a second that trying to balance warmth and discipline when raising your children is better than being authoritarian or disengaged but, thank goodness, they are not the only options. There IS another way. There are lots of other ways. Personally I find the words “warmth” and “discipline” hard to reconcile, because that is not the way I parent. The word discipline does not get used in our house, and the concept is not practiced, although I hope that we as parents and the atmosphere in our house do generally have a degree of “warmth”. Neither are we disengaged or authoritarian. It is perfectly possible to be both disengaged and authoritarian anyway – this list is meaningless!

There is so much in this article that I’d like to pick to pieces, but for this post I’ll focus on the “tough love” aspect.

So, let’s think about that for a minute. What is “tough love”? As I said to Ruth earlier, I dislike the term intensely, because to me all it does is let parents who know they are disrespecting their children off the hook. I have it in the same category as “it’s for your own good” and “we only want what’s best for you”. It’s a get out clause that allows the adults to justify their actions towards the child by making it sound like they are doing it for the child, instead of to the child, which is actually the case.

We know that “tough love” and disrespect for children is fully approved of by the Government by the fact that it refuses to outlaw “reasonable chastisement” ie the hitting of children by adults. They must really like this report, then, and indeed it goes on to make several recommendations to the Government, all along the lines of more interference into private family life by local government lackeys in the form of Sure Start schemes and Health Visitors.

And of course to your average non-thinking BBC believer that all sounds quite reasonable – they recognise that a certain type of family struggles more with raising their children in the state-approved way, and so the state “helps” those families. But just think about those very narrow definitions of the different ways of parenting; you’re either “authoritarian” or “disengaged” or “laissez-faire” or you might even be one of those lucky families who manage to get it right and instill “warmth and discipline” – and where does that leave the rest of us? Where does that leave families who would rather raise their children in the way that works best for them, regardless of what the state approves of?

The whole game is given away at the end of the article by Parentline Plus chief executive Jeremy Todd, who says:

We welcome this report and hope that it stimulates debate among policy makers around how best to support families to transform our society into one where we top the league tables for outcomes for children and well-being.

Got that? “support families to transform our society into one where we top the league tables for outcomes for children” I bet Ed Balls wishes Todd had kept his mouth shut. Doesn’t he know the line is “It’s for the chiiiiiiiiiiildren”? You can’t go telling everybody it’s really about league tables to make the country look good (and more than likely getting yourself a nice fat pay rise into the bargain)!

So, we understand now, if we didn’t before. They could not care less about our children; they just want them to perform in the proper state-approved ways, and meet all the state’s tick-box criteria for childhood, so that we can get to the top of the all important league tables that Jeremy Todd thinks we should care about so much.

There are going to be a lot of us letting the side down then, aren’t there, if that’s the case. Send in the Sure Start advisors and the Health Visitors to make sure we buck up our ideas.

I mention Ed Balls because it is him who makes these decisions regarding our children: whether to listen to reports or take advice, or dismiss them. That’ll be the same Ed Balls who’s wife Yvette Cooper had this to say to the Guardian in 2007:

It was the 2001 election, and I’d agreed to do a Today interview from home. Ed [Balls] was away, and it was just me and my eldest, who was two. I’d asked a friend to stay over to look after her while I was on air, but the press office had got the time of the interview slightly wrong, and I was still getting up when I heard the package before me begin. So I was frantically looking for the number of the studio, and I got through just in time. Then I heard a thump. It was my daughter, who had fallen out of bed, and was coming howling down the corridor. I had to leap up and slam the door in her face, and then put the duvet over my head so the listeners couldn’t hear her. I couldn’t even say, this has happened, could you call me back, because I was coming off the back of a feature about children’s hospices, and I would have sounded flippant. But I couldn’t actually take in any of Humphrys’ questions. I knew she wasn’t hurt, but I just felt a terrible sense of guilt, about doing everything badly.

Emphasis mine. No, Yvette, you did not “have to” slam the door in her face at all. You did not even “have to” put a duvet over your head to muffle the sound of her screams. There are many options for what you could have done. You could have put the phone down and gone to your daughter, realising that she was more important than any radio interview could be, but you didn’t. And these people want to give us parenting advice? No thanks, “think tank” Demos, Ed Balls and all the rest of you – you can keep your advice to yourself.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Hello to you all and many thanks to Ruth for adding me as a contributor to this fabulous blog :-). In this post I would like to write about my parenting approaches.

Firstly, I hope you guys will not think I am something of a fraud who does not belong here when I say I began my parenting life, with both of children very much traditional and routine orientated.

When I had my daughter (now 3) I was at a real loss as to how to get her to sleep at night. She would sleep all day and scream all night unless held. I therefore turned to the dreaded Gina Ford and Baby Whisperer for advice on ‘getting my children to sleep though the night’. For both my daughter and son (born 18 months later) we had set times for meals and naps as this is what has worked well for us although the children were not forced into any routines. We more fell into a good routine once I returned to work when my youngest was 13 months. In addition to this I have always had set bedtime with the kids in their own rooms. Again though this has never been an issue for my children as they both seem quite lazy and fond of sleep like their mum :-).

So now you may say ‘what is she doing here then?’ Well I would say, where I fit in here is more likely with ideas of discipline (or as some would say lack of it) and education and learning.

I studied a Psychology degree at university and have taught Psychology as a subject and always, even before having the children had an interest in developmental and educational psychology. I knew that while positive reinforcement worked as a means of behaviour control it was not a long term solution. I knew that lack of unconditional love can cause serious problems in later life. I knew that children should not grow up believing they will only be accepted if…

However when my own children got to an age where it was necessary to consider discipline to begin with I approached this using learning theory and behaviourism techniques such as ‘time out’, ‘reward charts’ and positive reinforcement. I think this was down to the fact that it had been ‘drilled’ into me by playgroups, health visitors and SureStart that this was the only way to discipline without smacking (which I am very anti). However, in my heart I knew that this was not the right way to go about things in the long run as it does not encourage any moral development or allow a child to see WHY they shouldn’t do something. The use of these techniques caused me to feel like I was constantly on my children’s case, I felt stressed and anxious and did not like myself for the way I spoke to my children.

I began to read Ruth’s Twitter posts and blog and so much of it made sense. I had already read about unconditional and attachment parenting in books and online forums and although that route had not been for me in terms of bed sharing and anti routine (although of course I have nothing against this it just doesn’t match my obsessive personality) their ideas of education and discipline have always been of interest to me.

I also became a little stressed out about developmental milestones, manners and saying please, sorry and thank you. My instinct told me that these would come naturally through observation. However when I saw friends talking about what their children could do (mainly children who went to nursery or childminders) or who hounded their children about manners I began to think maybe I was raising ignorant children if I didn’t do the same.

As for developmental milestones ; I remember buying Gina Ford’s book about Toddler Years and seeing all these things my child *should* be doing such as taking sips from a cup at the table whilst eating, making attempts to get undressed, using the potty, drinking from an open cup initially I worried as my daughter did not do these things.

Now however, I realise (although I think I knew all along) these things don’t matter at the age of 2 or 3. What matters is my daughter is unique, confident with both adults and children, inquisitive and adventurous. I feel a sense of pride when I see her scaling a climbing frame that many children double her age would struggle with or when I see her dribbling a football with the skills of a pro or asking question after question confidently to adults such as playgroup leaders and mummy friends (although maybe they find this annoying he he). These are the things that really matter at 2 or 3 not being forced to use table manners and saying please and thank you.

I will end this piece by saying one of the ideas I believe in strongly is in allowing children to act ‘age appropriately’ (term taken from Ruth I think). I have always let my children loose in restaurants and open spaces (so long as it is safe) and have not chastised them for running too much or being too loud. Myself I am a very lively person who can’t concentrate on things or sit still for a long time. I may had be considered to have some form of ADHD if I had been a child nowadays and not in the early 80s. My Mum said I would never sit still at playgroups during singing or story time or in assembly at school and I still feel a sense of unease in large staff meetings at work where we have to sit and listen, I am very claustrophobic and somewhat neurotic. My daughter, it seems, is exactly the same so far be it me to criticise her when if we are who we are is really down to nature it is essentially ‘my fault’ she is this way.

I would like to add I am not an experienced writer and have not written long pieces for a long time so I hope you can follow this even if the standard is not great! I will improve :-).

Read Full Post »